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Which Disabled Kids Face More Psychosocial Problems

Those with learning, communication impairments have tougher time,
study finds

(HealthDayNews) -- Family stress and difficulties with learning and communication are the strongest risk factors for the development of psychosocial problems among disabled children.

Children who have impaired learning or communication skills were much more likely than other disabled children to have poor psychosocial adjustment, says a study in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Family stress caused by factors such as poverty and the impact of the child's disability on the family also increased the likelihood of psychosocial problems in disabled children.

The researchers analyzed information about 3,300 children, aged 6 to 17, collected from the 1994 and 1995 U.S. National Health Interview Surveys, which included special sections on disability among household members.

The study excluded children with disabilities that were primarily psychiatric.

Of the disabled children included in the study, about 11 percent had psychosocial problems, such as anxiety, depression, hostility or poor interaction with their peers.

While children with limited mobility were not at increased risk for these problems, children with disabilities that hampered their ability to learn or communicate did have a greater chance of having psychosocial problems.

The same was true for disabled children whose mothers reported being distressed or depressed and for children whose disabilities placed additional stresses on their families by creating problems with work, sleep or finances.

"This study clarifies that physical limitations in themselves are not detrimental to psychosocial adjustment and that there needs to be stronger focus on the whole family when treating children with disabilities," study author Whitney P. Witt, Massachusetts General Hospital, says in a news release.

"Paying more attention to the family environment and providing appropriate support services could make a significant difference in how these children adjust," Witt says.